‘Jonathan Was Under Pressure To Prosecute Buhari Over Certificate’ – Adoke

President Goodluck Jonathan came under pressure to prosecute
Candidate Muhammadu Buhari over various allegations in the run-up to
the 2015 presidential election — but he declined and eventually lost to
the former military head of state.

Mohammed Bello Adoke, who was
attorney-general of the federation and minister of justice under
Jonathan, made this revelation in his memoirs, “Burden of Service: The
Reminiscences of Nigeria’s Former Attorney-General”, which is due for
release in Nigeria on September 16.

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He said politicians brought
up the issues surrounding Buhari’s secondary school certificate, the
execution of three convicted drug couriers under a retroactive decree in
1985 and the 2011 post-election riots in which hundreds were killed as
grounds for the arrest and prosecution of the flag bearer of the All
Progressives Congress (APC).

“Buhari was accused of being in
violation of the provisions of Sections 131 of the 1999 Constitution on
minimum educational qualification and Section 31 (3) of the 2010
Electoral Act which required that copies of his school certificate be
attached to the INEC Form CF001. Buhari did not attach the certificate.
Law suits were filed in court. In all, there were 13 court cases
challenging his eligibility, the most prominent being the one filed by a
certain Chukwunweike Okafor. Indeed, many private citizens went to
court to challenge Gen. Buhari’s eligibility,” Adoke wrote in the book
published by Clink Street Publishers in London and New York and seen in
advance by TheCable.
“While the controversy was raging, a West
African Senior School Certificate (WASSC) purportedly issued by the
Katsina State Ministry of Education suddenly surfaced on the internet.
On the face of it was the picture of a 72-year-old Buhari. It was dated
21 January 2015 (meanwhile, Katsina State was created in 1987).

The
certificate also contained a grading scheme that was not in use in
1962, around the time he was said to have sat for the examination. This
generated public outrage as people were questioning the authenticity of
the certificate and whether, indeed, Gen. Buhari had the requisite
qualification or had committed forgery. A lot of petitions were sent to
the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation requesting that
Buhari be prosecuted for forgery and INEC be advised to disqualify him.

“In
one instance, I received a letter from a lawyer asking for a fiat to
prosecute Buhari on the ground of certificate forgery. I was constrained
to deny the application as the lawyer had not furnished me the
requisite material upon which I would exercise such discretion. Beyond
applying for a fiat, the lawyer was also required to show evidence of
having made a complaint to the police. A report detailing the outcome of
the investigation was essential to ground such a fiat.”

THE MIMIKO CONNECTION

Adoke
said at a point, Olusegun Mimiko, then governor of Ondo state and
member of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) — the party Jonathan belonged —
asked that the lawyer be granted the fiat.

“A week later, I met
up with Dr Olusegun Mimiko, then Governor of Ondo State, at his request.
After the exchange of pleasantries, he brought up the issue of the
lawyer’s request for a fiat to prosecute Gen. Buhari and appealed to me
to grant it. I informed him that, regrettably, I was unable to grant the
request for a number of reasons. I reiterated my response to that
lawyer.

I emphasised to Mimiko that the candidate in question
was a former Head of State. In my opinion, even if he had no
certificate, being a retired General in the Army, he must have passed
Staff College which was more than an equivalent of the WASSC. I added
that as a former Head of State, Gen. Buhari’s experience would be more
than ‘an equivalent’ of a school certificate. I drew attention to the
provisions of Section 318 of the Constitution to support my assertion,”
Adoke narrated.

“When I left Mimiko, I became worried that there
was something going on in the political environment that I was not aware
of. I drove straight to the President’s residence. After recounting my
interaction with Mimiko and the uncanny feeling that was bothering me to
him, he calmly responded: ‘Do what is right.’

“Having had the
presidential assurance to ‘do what is right’, I decided to be pragmatic…
I knew my job was well cut out for me. I was a member of the National
Security Council. I knew the implications of a breakdown of law and
order were Buhari to be disqualified. Besides, President Jonathan had
persistently assured the world that his ambition was not worth the blood
of any Nigerian.”

THE PINOCHET TREATMENT

Adoke said it was not just the certificate issue that was being used against Buhari.
“There
was also the retroactive sentence and execution of three Nigerian
citizens under his watch as military Head of State. At 8:30 am on 10
April 1985, three young Nigerians were tied to the stakes at Kirikiri
Prison and executed by a military firing squad. Bartholomew Azubike
Owoh, 26, a former employee of Nigeria Airways, Lawal Akanni Ojuolape,
30, a spare parts dealer, and Bernard Ogedengbe, a 29-year-old sailor,
had been sentenced to death, separately, by a military tribunal in
December 1984,” he wrote.

“They were found guilty of illegal
possession of cocaine and heroin, punishable by death under Decree No.
20 of 1984. The death penalty was introduced after the offences had been
committed. Despite the public outcry, the law was applied
retroactively… In 2015, Buhari was being called upon to account for his
past. People were ready to resuscitate the matter by liaising with the
three families concerned to institute a suit against Buhari in the UK
with a view to getting him arrested and put on trial under the principle
of ‘universal jurisdiction’.

“Under this principle, former Heads
of State could be prosecuted outside their countries for crimes
committed while in office. General Augusto Pinochet’s case provided a
good precedent for that contention. On 16 October 2008, the former
Chilean dictator was arrested in London following his indictment for
human rights violations by a Spanish magistrate for crimes allegedly
committed by him while in office. He was held for over a year by the UK
authorities before he was released, most likely on compassionate grounds
because of his old age. He had ruled Chile for 17 years and had been
accused of committing numerous human rights violations.

“I turned
down all those who approached me to trigger the universal criminal
jurisdiction principle to get Gen. Buhari arrested and put on trial
abroad. The political future of Nigeria, I maintained, needed to be
developed by allowing healthy contestation for office. I refused to have
a hand in the attempt to give Buhari the Pinochet treatment. I briefed
the President about it because some mischief-makers were already calling
me a Buhari sympathiser for not toeing their line. I was branded a
closet APC member too. The blackmail was sickening.

“President
Jonathan, however, agreed with my position that we should not play the
Pinochet card. He thought the government would be seen as encouraging
‘bad politics’ if we succumbed to that call. He was under intense
pressure from some associates to use any means necessary to stop Buhari
but he opted to participate in competitive politics in a fair and
credible manner, not taking undue advantage of any quick-fix scenario
that was presented to him. I strongly believed, on my part, that the
electorate should be left the freedom to exercise their political
judgment. It was not for us to use our institutions and the instruments
of law to hound anybody.”

THE LEMU PANEL REPORT

There was also the Lemu Panel Report that some people were eager to use against Buhari, Adoke alleged.

“Since
2011, there had been pressure on me to prosecute Buhari after the
post-election violence in which over 800 people were killed. He was
captured on video appearing to use violent language to incite his sup-
porters during the campaigns. But I felt that those words were uttered
in the heat of the moment as passions were inflamed. In any case, having
won the election in 2011, Jonathan felt more compelled to build peace
and assuage frayed nerves. Putting Buhari on trial would have further
polarised a nation in which ethnic and religious sentiments are easily
mobilised for political purposes. Based on these considerations, I
declined to put Buhari on trial,” he wrote.

“The option was
available, too, to refer the matter to the Office of the Prosecutor of
the International Criminal Court (ICC) for crimes against humanity. It
involved loss of lives due to electoral violence. We could have claimed
that the political environment was such that would not allow for a fair
trial in Nigeria and would have referred the matter to the ICC as
governments in other countries were doing to their political opponents.”

He
said the government of Jonathan decided not to go that route “not
because we could not, but because it would further fracture the fragile
peace in the country”.

If Jonathan was desperate to stop Buhari,
he could still have gone ahead with the prosecution and damned the
consequences, Adoke wrote.
“The best I could have done as
Attorney-General was to resign. But he could have appointed another
willing Attorney-General to prosecute the matter. It is very important
to stick this point at the back of our minds,” he further wrote.

Source:- Thecableng

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